sweet "analogue" moments May 7, 2010

by Jeanmarie Higgins

Rimini Protokoll’s Best Before stages an audience-interactive video game run by five performers with varying technical savvy—from Brady, a former computer programmer, to Ellen, a journalist turned traffic flagger who says: "I played PacMan once, but I didn’t like it very much. "Each audience member creates and plays a character in the simplest of virtual lands. We each have a name (mine was "Ringo"— lucky me), a gender, and an occupation. We make choices: we vote, make money, shoot heroin, shoot each other, have babies, get divorced, until we all reach the age of 76, at which point Ellen asks us "Does anybody want to commit suicide?" as Brady attempts to make a black hole open up on the huge screen in front of us. On Thursday night, the black hole graphic failed, but no one seemed to mind much, including Brady, who tried her best to fix the problem but ultimately gave up. Best Before is most charming in these awkward digital moments, and in its awkward live moments as well—the stories told to us between game moves that don’t quite resolve; a simple "traffic sign dance" the company performs in not-quite unison; and the meandering guitar music that underscores the audience’s collective virtual life. These sweet "analogue" moments point to the (also sweet) digital ones, just as the virtual lives we create point right back at us, sitting as we are, in the dark, among 100 or so real, live people.